Upon introduction, you can't help but take note of Catherine Marion's gentle demeanor and kind nature – a woman so sweet and soft-spoken that you probably wouldn't guess that the owner of Jemily fine jewelry is also a seasoned corporate finance attorney. But it was her rigorous journey as a finance attorney that brought Catherine to the realization that she was meant to design the most precious of personal ornaments and start her own business. Jemily, which is named after Catherine's two daughters – Emily and Jennifer, is a New York based fine jewelry brand known for it's timeless pieces with intricate designs and touches of colorful stones.
Catherine's love for jewelry first developed during her adolescent years as she inherited her grandmother's jewelry collection and began to possess an appreciation for the craftsmanship of intricate designs and precious stones and metals. Catherine explains that she has never been loyal to one specific jewelry brand just that her love for the art of jewelry runs deep and has always held a special spot in her life. This spot was impactful, however, that it eventually lead to a drastic and courageous career change.
For Catherine, 2004 marked her eleventh year as a corporate finance attorney in New York City, eleven long years of sleepless nights, 18+ hour work days and missing out the day to day 'mommy duties' during her two daughters' childhood. Catherine found herself employing three nannies just to be able to take care of her children while she and her husband evolved in their careers. But it was at that time that the working mother decided that in addition to her already hectic life, that she would enroll in night classes at F.I.T. for jewelry design. So, every Friday and Saturday night, Catherine took what was left of her free time and attended her jewelry design classes at F.I.T.'s Chelsea campus, and that is when her love longtime love for jewelry finally came full circle. "It just felt right. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing." Says Catherine.
The following year, with two years left to go in her jewelry design program at F.I.T, Catherine decided to leave her full-time position in corporate finance to pursue what it was that she felt she should be doing – designing jewelry. Fast forward to 2012 and that is when her change of career paths finally came to fruition and she started Jemily.
Catherine Marion's Jemily is a completely self-funded business with a price point that ranges from $400 to $6,000 and according to the designer, her target market is a confident woman anywhere from 28 – 50 years old who can and chooses to purchase her own jewelry. With a brand specifically targeted at women and being a woman and independent business owner herself, Catherine does not take her responsibility to empowering women lightly.
For those who have struggled to zip up the back of a dress or clasp a necklace for you, Catherine is also thinking of you. With the goal of keeping her clients to be as independent as possible, Catherine keeps this in mind when she is designing her collections. "[Our goal] is to make user friendly jewelry, where you don't have to rely on anybody else to help with trying it on." To wit, all of Jemily's clasps are made so that the client can put it on without the help of a significant other. Nothing empowers women quite like granting them the independence to put on their own jewelry with ease.
Over the last five years, Jemily's classic, feminine designs have landed in over a dozen independently-owned stores nationwide while the sales and collections produced continue to grow. Ironically for the Chicago native, Chicago is the city where the brand experiences the highest volume of sales. Jemily is strictly wholesale and while Catherine designs the jewelry she employs two in-house sales associates to conduct the wholesale relationships and to complete their three-woman show.
Catherine produces around two collections a year and explains that intricate types of architecture and nature are her constant inspirations. On a personal level, Catherine says she prefers using natural, colored stones, which can be seen throughout her collections, despite them often being harder to sell. Regardless, when designing her collections, Catherine always aims to create alluring pieces that have thought and meaning behind them. "I feel it's my job to show things that nature made, [that] God made – to showcase these creations," explains the designer. Catherine fulfills these self assigned duties by using crystals, stones and diamonds from all over the earth to create her pieces. She gets her diamonds from Antwerp, Belgium and has them cut in Israel and makes it a priority to guarantee conflict-free diamonds.
Catherine's love for nature's finest jewels is shown not only in her designs, but through her passion for jewelry making. "I wish I could give it away," says Catherine. "If I broke even, I would be okay." But unfortunately, the cost of jewelry making calls for a price tag that is a bit more expensive than $0. Regardless, it is clear that receiving an income from her business is no comparison to the feeling of finally doing what she loves every single day.
When asked about the future of Jemily, Catherine explains that continuing to expand and create new lines is her number one priority. Catherine's selfless ways and ability to create beautiful, unique pieces for the most confident of women, especially in today's political climate, is most definitely empowering.
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
Ways and Instagram.
2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
First shut alarm off, then head to yoga.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
5. What is your spirit animal?
6. What is your life motto?
I aim to have a wake like my grandmother's, there were so many people that stopped by just to tell of all of the things that she did for them.
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful?
9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?
10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
Wifi, Kindle, Purell.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.